All you need to know about the house dust mite

Avoidance and the indoor environment

Nobody knows for sure when the house dust mite (HDM) became a specialist at eating discarded skin scales, but we do know that in prehistoric times they lived in animal nests e.g. rat's nests. Then, about ten thousand years ago, when man stopped roaming and made a home, the mite came to live with him too. To the mite, man had made a big nest (his bed) in a warm, dark and damp environment and there was plenty of food to eat!

How do house dust mites (HDM) get into my bed?

Mites are able to travel about by clinging to material, fur, feathers or anything that will give them a place to hide and a ride to a new home. Socks, soft toys or night clothes can transport mites to a bed. A single mite rarely survives, but a traveling colony may.

What is the best way to be sure that house dust mites (HDM) stay out of my bed?

First is to understand how the mite lives and then take measures to make sure a mite is not welcomed in your bed. Cover your mattress, pillows and duvets with micro-porous material. Remove carpets and clutter. Do not make your bed in the morning, simply air it all day long to reduce moisture from sleep.

What diseases can dust mites cause?

House dust mites (HDM) can cause allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, and eczema. They can also be associated with conjunctivitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, hypersensitive pneumonia, angioedema, extrinsic allergic alveolitis, allergic and migraine headache, and certain gut disorders in which IgE is involved. Allergy testing is always recommended to confirm a clinical diagnosis of health problems caused by mite exposure.

How old is an old mattress?

Over 2 years old. However if the mattress has not been in humid conditions it may not be a home for house dust mites. A simple dust test will give you an answer.

What is skin prick testing?

A skin prick test is a safe method of introducing a small amount of allergen into the body in order to measure the strength of any allergic reaction. Timing for reactions can start 5 minutes after the test and peak about 30 minutes later. Any red mark or "wheal" is then measured and recorded as an allergy trigger if the patient has accompanying allergy symptoms. It is important to have this diagnostic tool administered by a doctor or allergy nurse.

If I put micro-porous covers on a pillow, does it have to be new?

It is best to have new pillows for new micro-porous covers. Or have expensive pillows dry cleaned before covering.

Why isn't just vacuuming my mattress good enough to get rid of house dust mites?

House dust mites (HDM) hide away from the light and burrow deep into the mattress clinging on with powerful hooks and suckers on each leg. However, vacuuming the mattress will reduce some mites and the dust that mites live on.

Why are house dust mites (HDM) so harmful?

House dust mites produce powerful enzymes that are strong enough to break down delicate cells, then go on to enter the body, a bit like an invasion. For some people this invasion causes a reaction, for others it's just unwanted dirt that gets cleaned up naturally. Interestingly, doctors have found that some aggressive pollen seems to work in the same destructive way, but these are seasonal pollens, whereas house dust mites can be year-round pests in allergy.

What areas of a mattress are suitable for a house dust mite (HDM) and its colony?

House dust mites (HDM) have been found to prefer living near edges of a mattress, under button depressions, and at the foot area of the bed. The middle of the mattress may be too warm for a mite colony, while the head area is usually covered by a pillow. When vacuuming a mattress please remember mites hide away from the light and burrow deep into material clinging on with powerful hooks and suckers on each leg.

Can mites live on top of covers?

Yes, if left undisturbed with moisture and plenty of food mites will multiply on the top of a micro porous cover. It is important to dust the covers regularly to prevent this from happening.

By taking steps to cover the mattress, pillow and duvet how soon will I notice a difference in my child's health?

This will depend upon your child's allergies. What you are doing is practising good sleep hygiene, or sleeping in a safe environment. A recommended step forward to healthy living.

Do I have to treat all of the beds in my home?

Doctors recommend that all beds be made anti-mite beds.

How can I tell if there are mites in my bed?

There is a dust sampling kit that can be purchased for this job.

Do I have to cover all the bed and bedding? It's very expensive!

If cost is an issue or more than one bed in a home needs anti-mite treatment consider replacing old bedding by shopping around on line looking for a quality mattress at reasonable prices. Clinically proven anti-mite sprays are available to help keep new mattresses mite free.